Category: Alumni

SAE Winter Baja Invitational: Driving Innovation from the Ground Up

Michigan Tech is the home of the Winter Baja Invitational, which recently brought 22 universities and 45 student-built off-road vehicles to campus on January 28, 2023.

Winter Baja is one of the most exciting invitational events in the SAE Collegiate Design Series. It also serves as a frozen dress rehearsal for the official SAE International Baja competitions, which take place each spring and summer in different locations across the country. Student engineers design and build their vehicles from scratch around an SAE-designated engine.

Blizzard Baja, a student-led team, part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise program, organizes this event annually—on top of designing and building a new vehicle for entrance into one or more of the national SAE Baja events. 

This year, Winter Baja was held on Saturday, January 28, 2023, near the Student Development Complex at Michigan Technological University. It attracted 45 off-road vehicles from 22 universities, which raced around a one-mile snow/ice circuit course.

The day started with the pickled egg slalom race. This event requires drivers to reach the end of the course, hop out of their vehicle and eat a pickled egg. Then a new driver must jump in the vehicle and drive it back to the starting line. Next was the hill climb race, where vehicles drive as high as possible up the snow bank. 

Michigan Tech Blizzard Baja Enterprise team hosts the SAE Winter Baja Competition every year, and takes part in the competition, as well.

Finally, the main event—the endurance race—started at 10:30 AM as cars gridded up at the starting line. TV6 News reporter Tristan Hendrick covered the event: Michigan Tech hosted annual Baja race to give students work experience.

University of Iowa’s Iowa Baja came in first, with 55 laps around the course. Results of the endurance race are available here: https://winterbaja.enterprise.mtu.edu/downloads/WinterBaja2023FinalLapResults.pdf

Congratulations to The Iowa Baja, University of Iowa, which took first place in the endurance race, completing 55 laps around the course in 3:39:02.
Virginia Tech’s Baja Valkyrie took second, completing 51 laps in 3:39:27.

The Michigan Tech Blizzard Baja Enterprise team is advised by Kevin Johnson, assistant teach professor in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Steven Ma, professor of practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Michigan Tech computer engineering student Rithik Sawant served as this year’s Winter Baja Coordinator. “The 42nd annual Winter Baja Race this year was one of the largest we have ever held,” he said.

“Winter Baja is the ultimate test for your vehicle—we don’t skimp on the difficulty of the track and size of the jumps.”

Rithik Sawant

Michigan Tech’s Baja team has a long history of success in SAE competitions since the 1970s. Students use modern engineering and manufacturing processes to enhance vehicle performance by focusing on reduction of vehicle mass, maximization of drivetrain efficiency, improvement of driver visibility and comfort, and optimization of off-road vehicle handling and maneuverability.

The 2023 SAE Winter Baja Competition events took place around the clock on January 28 at Michigan Tech.

The Winter Baja Invitational pays tribute to the roots of the Baja SAE Collegiate Design Series and began at Michigan Tech in 1981. Michigan Tech professors emeritus Bill Shapton and Larry Evers created the event to provide students with hands-on engineering experience. One of the first baja races led students through beaver dams and sand pits, from the abandoned Keweenaw town of Mandan up to Copper Harbor. It evolved into a global engineering series with annual official SAE collegiate Baja racing events taking place in North America, South Africa, Brazil, and South Korea.

The starting lineup for the endurance race.
MTU Blizzard Baja’s test vehicle, Hornet, competed with a new front suspension system for research and development.

SAE Winter Baja 2023 Event Sponsors

Special thanks to all SAE Winter Baja event sponsors: McLaren Engineering, Milwaukee Tool, TeamTech, Daimler Truck, Kohler, Caterpillar, Pratt Miller, Ford, Professional Fabricating, Extreme Canopy, and locally, Diamond House International, LevelUp, Keweenaw Petroleum Service, Houghton Powersports, Houghton Fire Department, and Superior Search and Rescue.

Winter Baja photography by: Andrew Erickson, Mackenzie Johnson, and Peter LaMantia.

Engineering Alumni Social at the Dog House this Thurs. at 3pm

Do you remember the Dog House from your time at Michigan Tech?
Hope to see you there!

Are you coming to the Michigan Tech campus for Winter Carnival? Take a break from viewing the statues on Thursday, February 9 from 3-5 pm to enjoy a beverage and some snacks!

Join Dean Janet Callahan, the College of Engineering department chairs, and fellow Michigan Tech engineering alumni for a social at the Dog House in downtown Houghton (aka Armando’s, at 517 Shelden Avenue). You’ll also have a chance to learn more about how to support the college during Give Back to the Pack, Michigan Tech’s 48-hour giving challenge.

Anyone who donates $100 or more to the College of Engineering or any of its departments during the social will get a College of Engineering t-shirt.

Want to see all the College of Engineering giving challenges thus far? Here’s a link: https://www.mtu.edu/engineering/giving-day

And for complete information, go to https://www.giveback.mtu.edu

Time to Give Back to the Pack

Paws courtesy of Echo, Dean Janet Callahan’s very own Siberian Husky. Meet Echo in the video posted further down in this blog.

Celebrate Winter Carnival 2023 from wherever you are and Give Back to the Pack on Feb. 8–10!

Your gift—big or small—will create an immediate impact on the lives of Michigan Tech students and the community.

Huskies from across the country and globe are coming together during this time-honored Michigan Tech tradition to make a difference in the lives of our 7,000+ students.

Give Back to the Pack starts at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 as Winter Carnival recess begins on campus. It ends 48 hours later on Friday, Feb. 10. All giving will be routed through the website: giveback.mtu.edu. Gifts can be made in any amount and to any area of campus. Dozens of exciting giving challenges from departments and individuals across campus will increase the impact of gifts with dollar-for-dollar matches.

Curious to see all the giving challenges? Visit giveback.mtu.edu

In addition to making a gift, you can make a difference by spreading the word about Give Back to the Pack. Sign up to be an official ambassador for the 48-hour giving challenge, or simply tell others through your channels and help us spread the word.

Worth noting: Michigan Tech’s last giving day event was in April 2019 and raised $570,813 from 1,337 gifts.

This event celebrates what makes Tech special: our strong culture of philanthropy among alumni, faculty, staff, students and the community.

Thank you for supporting Michigan Tech. Together we can make a great impact for our University!

Go Huskies!

Play Give Back to the Pack – Days of Giving 2023 video
Preview image for Give Back to the Pack - Days of Giving 2023 video

Give Back to the Pack – Days of Giving 2023

Jeff Thompson: Making Skis

Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis are custom designed and built in Michigan, using classic craftsmanship and the most modern technology. 

Jeff Thompson, mechanical engineering alum and partner/engineer/cofounder of Shaggy’s Skis, joins Dean Janet Callahan on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar Monday, 1/30 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes or so, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Jeff Thompson and his family named Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis for their great-uncle Shaggy, and for the former mining region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where Thompson attended Michigan Tech.

What are you doing for supper Monday night 1/30 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Jeff Thompson, Michigan Tech alum and cofounder of Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis. Joining will be Dr. Iver Anderson, senior metallurgist at Ames Lab. He’s an inventor, and fellow Michigan Tech alum.

During Husky Bites, Thompson will share how he started making skis as a kid, continued while still a student at Michigan Tech, and where he is now—creating custom skis for a living.

headshot of Iver
Iver Anderson

Thompson and his brother Jonathon started building skis as a hobby in 2005. Three years later the Thompson family released the first line of Shaggy’s Skis to the public.

Today they still handcraft every pair of skis in their own small factory in Boyne City, Michigan. Each pair of Shaggy’s Skis are custom designed and built with a passion for skiing and craftsmanship combined. At least 80 processes go into making a ski, and Jeff will share much more about them during Husky Bites.

Thompson grew up in South Lyon, Michigan in a family of “makers”—his father was a carpenter. Growing up he and his brother were fortunate to have a workshop to build many things, “from toys to go-carts, and everything in between,” he says.

Testing new skis!

“We were also a ski racing family,” Thompson recalls. “One day after a race, my dad thought it would be cool to put skis on my bike and take it downhill. A few weeks later, he gave me some old skis to cut apart and use for my bike. When I cut them down, I immediately observed how each piece was put together. I thought, ‘Hey, I can make this!’ From that point on, I lured in my brother, Jonathon, and together we started building the tools we needed to start building skis.”

Thompson’s grandparents were from Kearsarge, so he spent a lot of time in the Keweenaw growing up. “I knew from fourth grade on that I would attend Michigan Tech for mechanical engineering,” he says. He now lives in Petoskey, Michigan with his wife, Stephanie Thompson. She earned her BS in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2013.

We combine our passion for skiing and craftsmanship so you can make the most out of every day on the snow; whether you’re ripping down perfect corduroy, chasing morning powder, or slashing in the trees.”

Jeffrey Thompson ’12, Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis
Shaggy Skis are known for their fine craftsmanship

Joining Thompson during the Husky Bites session will be fellow MTU alumnus Iver Anderson ’75, a lifelong skier with a keen interest in the making of skis from a materials standpoint. Anderson grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in a city located just across the Portage Canal from Michigan Tech, Hancock.

Anderson appreciates all the craftsmanship that goes into Shaggy’s Skis. “My father was observant and very particular, for instance, about making furniture and cabinetry. He taught me how to look for quality, the mark of a craftsman, how to sense a thousandth of an inch. I carry that with me today.”

Anderson is a Michigan Tech alum and senior metallurgical engineer at Ames Lab, a US Department of Energy National Lab. A few years ago, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, for inventing a successful lead-free solder alloy, a revolutionary alternative to traditional tin/lead solder used for joining less fusible metals such as electric wires or other metal parts, and in circuit boards. As a result, nearly 20,000 tons of lead are no longer released into the environment worldwide.

Jeff Thompson (R) and his brother Jonathan Thompson (L)

Jeff, what do you like to in your spare time?

I obviously love to ski! Stephanie and I are currently teaching our two year old daughter to ski (on her own custom skis).

I also love to build things. I just finished building our house with my dad this past summer, from pouring the footings, to setting trusses, and finishing. We did it all.

Iver Anderson skiing up on Mammoth Mountain, California.

Dr. Anderson, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I grew up in Hancock, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. Right out my back door was a 40 acre wood that all the kids played in. The world is a beautiful place, especially nature. That was the kind of impression I grew up with. 

Iver enjoys quality time with his grandson in Columbus, Ohio

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Metallurgical Engineering in 1975 from Michigan Tech. It laid the foundation of my network of classmates and professors, which I have continued to expand.

I went on to earn my MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the joined the Metallurgy Branch of the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

One of my goals was to return to the Midwest, so later I took a position at Ames Lab in 1987. I’ve spent the balance of my research career there, and at Iowa State, ever since.

Sliding into the Future of Mont Ripley

A Michigan Tech student takes the ultimate study break: snowboarding at Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley
Nick wearing his blue Mt Ripley Shirt
Nick Sirdenis, General Manager, Mont Ripley

Nick Sirdenis, General Manager of Mont Ripley, Michigan Tech’s very own ski area, plus Dan Dalquist, and Josie Stalmack generously shared their knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar hosted by Dean Janet Callahan. Here’s the link to watch a recording of their session on YouTube. Get the full scoop, and see a listing of all the (60+) recorded sessions at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper Monday night 1/23 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Nick Sirdenis, general manager Mont Ripley Ski Area at Michigan Tech. Joining will be Dan Dalquist, ski instructor supervisor for the Ski & Snowboard School, as well as Josie Stalmack, senior in biomedical engineering and student president of the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol. They’ll share plans to some future plans for Mont Ripley, including an updated and larger chalet, a true beginner run from top to bottom, and more parking.

Dan skiing
Dan Dalquist, Mont Ripley Ski School Supervisor

Mont Ripley welcomes all snow enthusiasts. The ski area is owned by Michigan Tech and sits in the middle of Houghton and Hancock, just a mile from campus. Mont Ripley is a star attraction of the scenic Keweenaw Peninsula, home to the most snow in the Midwest. Although Mont Ripley has a great learning area, it is mostly well known for its challenging terrain, from urban backcountry glades to terrain parks with more than thirty features—including jumps and slides. During Husky Bites, Sirdenis will talk about some new features at Mont Ripley currently in planning stages, plus one now in the works.

Two people on a chair lift
Josie Stalmack studies biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech. Here she is with her dad, also an MTU alum, patrolling together on the Husky Ski Lift at Mont Ripley.

Sirdenis graduated in 1979 from the Ski Area Management program at Gogebic Community College. He managed Blackjack Ski Area from 1981-2000 and lived in Ironwood Michigan. He was hired as a consultant in 1998 to design the snowmaking system and to oversee the construction, and then was hired as the general manager of Mt. Ripley. Originally from Detroit, Sirdenis and his wife Julie have 3 children and his entire family enjoys skiing.

Dan Dalquist is a Houghton High School and Michigan Tech alum and started skiing at Mont Ripley in the 1966-67 season, and joined the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol in January 1971. He became a professional ski instructor in 2001. For Dan, skiing at Mont Ripley was, and still is, a family event. His children learned to ski at 2 years old and they both still ski. All 4 of his grandchildren also ski. Dan graduated from Michigan Tech with a BSBA in Marketing Management in 1976.

“Nick and I have known each other since he first started at MTU,” says Dalquist. “And Josie is a fellow ski patroller who I’ve been privileged to work with. As a matter of fact, Josie’s dad is an MTU grad. He came to Tech as a patroller, and I was on the Michigan Tech Ski Patrol at that time, too, so I helped introduce Thad to Mont Ripley.”

An uphill view of the chair lift on Mont Ripley
An especially gorgeous day on Mont Ripley at Michigan Tech

An Ann Arbor native, Josie Stalmack learned to ski as soon as she could walk and picked up snowboarding when she was about 7 years old. Skiing and snowboarding have always been a part of her life, as her dad is a member of the National Ski Patrol. What really drew her to Michigan Tech was Mont Ripley and the fact that she could get certified and join the ski patrol.

“Nick and I have known each other since he started at MTU,” says Dan. “Josie is a fellow ski patroller I have been privileged to work with. Her dad is a MTU grad, too. I trained him to become a ski patroller when he was at Tech!”

“I met both Nick and Dan by joining the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol. Both have such a loving passion for skiing and Mont Ripley. I am just happy to be a part of such a wonderful ski hill.”

Josie Stalmack
Josie does a happy jump in front of the Mount Rainier lodge sign
Josie took a recent trip to another Mont, this one in Washington state: Mount Rainier

Nick, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Skiing, fishing, motorcycle riding. We always have dogs and birds, right now Ziggy the whippet and Sylvia the Pug and Yani the canary. I love doing construction. You’ll usually find sawdust in my pocket.

Dan, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I list cross country skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing as my winter hobbies. I also bicycle: mountain bike and road bike, plus boating, fishing, and reading.

Josie, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am the youngest of four, with two older brothers and an older sister. I am also blessed with a wonderful brother-in-law, two nieces and a nephew. Lastly, I am engaged to be married, so I am also gaining a whole other family!

Any hobbies?
Outside of skiing and snowboarding, I really enjoy weightlifting, hiking and backpacking, reading, baking, and spending time with friends and family.

Ski patrol stand at Mont Ripley and talk.
Members of Mont Ripley Ski Patrol
lights on Mont Ripley twinkle in the distance
View of Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley Ski Area from across Portage Canal

Click here to make a donation to the Mt. Ripley Expansion Fund

SWE Section Establishes Endowed Scholarship

Congratulations to Michigan Tech’s SWE Section as they announce the creation of a new endowed scholarship!

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section at Michigan Tech is excited to announce the creation of a new endowed scholarship.

“The scholarship is in honor of our alumnae and alumni who have been part of our section since 1976,” says SWE advisor, Associate Teaching Professor Gretchen Hein.

“Eight years ago, in 2014, we hosted the SWE Region H Conference,” Hein explains. “With the funds received from SWE, we began saving with the goal of establishing an endowed scholarship. At long last, we have met our goal and will begin awarding an annual $1,000 endowed scholarship in 2026 to an active SWE section member.”

The new scholarship is in addition to the current section scholarships being awarded annually, notes Hein.

Michigan Tech SWE logo with gear

“As the President of SWE at Michigan Tech, I am excited that our section can provide an additional scholarship opportunity for our members,” said Aerith Cruz, a third year Management Information Systems student. “Our mission is threefold: ‘to stimulate women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity.’ The establishment of our endowed scholarship demonstrates our dedication to support the future of SWE at Michigan Tech.”

Details regarding the scholarship application process will be announced in 2026. The process will mirror SWE’s current scholarship application where students complete a short essay, have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, and provide a copy of their resume and a letter of recommendation.

Adds Hein: “Members of Michigan Tech’s SWE section greatly appreciate the guidance and assistance received from Jim Desrochers, director for corporate relations at Michigan Tech, and also Michigan Tech SWE advisor Elizabeth Hoy, director of business and program development at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. And we thank the University and our current and alumni members for their support!”

Would you like to support the SWE Endowed Scholarship?

Donations are welcome! Contribute via check or credit card. Visit mtu.edu/givenow for online donations or to find the mail-in form.

Key points:

  1. Gift Type is “Make a one time gift”
  2. Enter your gift amount
  3. Gift Designation: Select “Other” and enter “SWE Endowed Scholarship #5471″

SWE Congratulates Our Graduating Seniors and Scholarship Recipients

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section at Michigan Tech congratulates our graduating seniors: Sophie Stewart and Audrey Levanen (mechanical engineering) and Kiira Hadden (biomedical engineering). We look forward to hearing from them as alumnae!

The section awarded two scholarships to active upper-division students. We are so proud of the accomplishments of Natalie Hodges (dual major: electrical and computer engineering) and Alli Hummel (civil engineering).

We will be awarding two scholarships in the spring to first- and second-year active members and will be posting the application information during the spring semester.

By Gretchen Hein, Advisor, Society of Women Engineers.

Five Times in a Row: Michigan Tech Students Earn First Place in ASM Undergraduate Design Competition–Again!

Michigan Tech’ 550-ton Breda direct extrusion press, just one of several tools used by MSE students at Michigan Tech.

Many engineers remember the excitement of applying their classroom knowledge to their capstone senior design project while also being a bit overwhelmed about how to actually do it. 

Paul Sanders, Patrick Horvath Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech

Back in 2010, this challenge was recognized in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) by Michigan Tech Professor Mark Plichta, an innovator in project-based engineering education, and Northwestern University Professor Greg Olson, a leader in the relatively new field of computational materials engineering. 

The two selected then Assistant Professor Paul Sanders, (who had a Michigan Tech BS and a Northwestern PhD and materials design experience at Ford Motor Company) to implement their vision for MSE capstone senior design. This vision involved using computational materials engineering—a tool that, at the time, was only taught in graduate school. Sanders (somewhat unknowingly) accepted the challenge, and through a sometimes bumpy, continuous improvement process developed the current curriculum in MSE at Michigan Tech.

“Michigan Tech undergrads, with their application mindset, hands-on, problem-solving skills, and openness to mentorship, provided the ideal culture for this endeavor.”

Paul Sanders

One condition of Olson, who provided the computational engineering software tool Thermo-Calc, was that Michigan Tech compete in the ASM Undergraduate Design Competition, an event that started in 2008 with Northwestern University winning first place. The Michigan Tech strategy was to utilize traditional hypothesis-based inquiry through application of engineering statistics coupled with design of experiments (DOEs) in both the modeling and laboratory environment. Eventually a methods course was developed for spring of the junior year that included a semester-long project to demonstrate the tools, followed by two semesters of the capstone senior design course. Prof. Sanders led this coursework and scoped projects to fit the Michigan Tech methodology. Long-term industry sponsors Eck Industries, ArcelorMittal, and Waupaca Foundry were critical to implementing the vision by providing industry-relevant projects that would allow students to use the toolset taught in the curriculum.

Michigan Tech first entered the ASM Design Competition in 2012 earning second place (Northwestern was first). Michigan Tech’s first five entries earned second place three times and third place twice. Starting in 2018, Michigan Tech started winning…and continued winning…for 5 years in a row. This is a credit not only to the student work on these projects, but also to the methodology and support of industry sponsors. As Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech states, “We’re very proud of our world-class senior design students’ experience. Where else do teams win first place five years in a row, for alloy design, in an era where it isn’t about randomly mixing elements, but rather, about predictive modeling based on known materials parameters? These projects⁠—centered on fundamentally interesting questions, are coupled with faculty and industry expertise. No wonder we’re the go-to place for materials engineers!”

Dr. Julio G. Maldonado, ASM Foundation, presents the award to Michigan Tech seniors Isabella Wakeham Jaszczak (2nd from left) Jacob Longstreth, (3rd from left) Jake Klotz (right). Team member Nick Hopp was unable to attend the conference and awards ceremony.

The student team that completed the “five-peat” in 2022 designed a process for modeling the extrusion of aluminum-magnesium (Al-Mg) alloys with cerium (Ce) additions that can maintain their strength at service temperatures up to 400°F. This student team was unique in that there was only one MSE student on the team, Isabella Wakeham Jaszczak, and three mechanical engineering students, Nick Hopp, Jake Klotz, and Jacob Longstreth. Even though the team graduated in spring of 2022, three of the four team members accepted their award at ASM International’s IMAT Conference in New Orleans on September 12, 2022. 

“The success of the MSE senior design program is due not only to current students embracing the time-consuming process of project engineering, but also our loyal alumni who provide the projects that continuously improve our process.”

Paul Sanders

Cerium is the most abundant (and lowest cost) rare earth element, and Ce is known to improve the properties of aluminum. Given that rare earths are often mined together and that the demand is higher for heavier rare earths, there is excess cerium. The project sponsor David Weiss, vice president of research and development at Eck Industries, collaborates on research teams who identify beneficial uses and markets for cerium in order to improve the economics of mining rare earth. Weiss suggested applying Ce to Al extrusion for Eck’s customer, Eaton Corporation.

Extrusion is the process of forming long, two-dimensional cross-sections by forcing hot metal through a die. The students were tasked with modeling the extrusion of Al-Mg-Ce alloys to predict the necessary extrusion force and resultant flow rate. The team used a DOE-based strategy to develop a deformation model for the alloy using elevated-temperature compression testing coupled with MATLAB data analysis. Material model parameters were then entered into the commercial extrusion modeling software Inspire Extrude from Altair to calculate the extrusion force and flow rate. These predictions were tested in Michigan Tech laboratories by permanent mold casting the custom Al-Mg-Ce alloys followed by extrusion on a 550-ton Breda direct extrusion press, donated by Alcoa. To better understand the project, please see the students’ excellent four-minute video .

No small feat: Michigan Tech engineering students designed a process for modeling the extrusion of aluminum-magnesium (Al-Mg) alloys with cerium (Ce) additions. These alloys can maintain their strength at service temperatures up to 400°F. Pictured above, extruding one of the alloys.

“My decision to return to Michigan Tech as an MSE faculty member was motivated in large part by the type of students Michigan Tech attracts,” reflects Sanders, now the Patrick Horvath Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “They are smart, hardworking, and willing to learn.”

Bill Rose: Forged in Fire, Sculpted by Ice—Keweenaw Geostories

Erika Vye and Bill Rose on the shore of Agate Harbor, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Prof. Bill Rose has been studying Central American volcanoes for almost six decades.

Research Professor Bill Rose, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech, shared his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar on Monday, 11/21. Check out the Zoom recording and register for future sessions at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Everyone loves a great geoheritage stories (geostories for short)—and Prof. Bill Rose has many of them. Joining in, colleague, friend and former student, Erika Vye, Geosciences Research Scientist at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.

Together they co-created Keweenaw Geoheritage, an organization that focuses on education and opportunities for sustainable tourism based on significant geologic features and our relationship with them.

Erika Vye works at the Great Lakes Research Center (“and she is GREAT,” says Prof. Bill Rose.)

During Husky Bites, Rose and Vye will share the geostory about Le Roche Vert (the green rock). It’s the legend of a turquoise vein of rock that projected from the shoreline at Copper Harbor into Lake Superior, making for a spectacular site. It was located near the current site of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, where travelers rounded the Keweenaw on their way westward. Known by Native Americans for centuries, the green rock was widely exaggerated and extolled by certain Voyageurs, who were French Canadian trappers and violent wild explorers. This led to the fame of copper and the public awareness of the possible riches of the Keweenaw, Isle Royale and Lake Superior.

They will also share a geostory about one theory concerning the Keweenaw Fault—the result of an important discussion and argument by geologists, done when geology was a very young science, full of uncertainty (it still is!). And they’ll tell the geostory of Billy Royal, Ed Hulbert and the wild boar—and how they found the C & H Conglomerate in 1868.

An underground concert at Delaware Mine that Bill Rose and Erika Vye organized as a geoheritage event.
“The best geoscientists have seen the most rocks,” he says. He started the Bill Rose Geoscience Student Travel Fund with $100K of his own hard-earned cash.

Vye is dedicated to developing sustainable economic opportunities and enriched relationships with the natural environment through formal and informal place-based education. “The emphasis is on broadening Earth science and Great Lakes literacy through interdisciplinary research and learning, community partnerships, and traditional knowledge,” notes Vye.

“Erika is my friend and she heads up geoheritage awareness efforts. She works with teachers, and is linked with Native Americans, environmentally-relevant groups. She works at the Great Lakes Research Center—she is GREAT,” says Rose.

“Bill is a great friend, mentor, and like family to me,” says Vye.

The two met many years ago at a conference when Vye was working in Munich, Germany. “I’d heard great things about the work he was doing here at Michigan Tech related to natural hazards, Earth science education, and social geology,” she says. “After meeting and learning more, I moved to Houghton a few years later to pursue my PhD with Bill (as his last PhD student!). We have since worked together on advancing geoheritage at the local, regional, and national scale.

“We are all connected by our relationships with geology.”

Erika Vye

“I have buckets of gratitude to work so closely with Bill on this beautiful work that we hope helps our community to thrive.”


“Life on the Keweenaw shore—come and visit paradise.”

Bill Rose

Prof. Rose, how did you first get into engineering?

I am not an engineer. I never got into it. When I arrived in Houghton as a young professor. I had a dual major in geography and geology, but the chance to work as a faculty member in an engineering department sounded good to me. It gave me a chance to go outside, working hands-on in the field, rather than being stuck in the lab. I chaired that engineering department for over eight years.

Prof. Bill Rose and his kin at a recent family feast!

Hometown, family?

Corrales, New Mexico. I have  two sons, five grandchildren. One son is a math teacher, the other a geoenvironmental engineer.

The incredible view from Bill and Nanno Rose’s deck overlooking Lake Superior and the north half of Silver Island.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have dozens of hobbies, but no pets. As a retired faculty my favorite pastime is no meetings, no deadlines, just creative communications and being outdoors.

“I love being outside,” says Dr. Erika Vye.

Dr. Vye, how did you first get into geology? What sparked your interest?

I started my undergraduate studies at Dalhousie University in the theater department. I needed a science elective and fell into geology; I was hooked and switched majors. I am fascinated by the ways rocks and landscapes share stories about Earth’s history, providing us a window to learn about deep time and how our geologic underpinnings are the foundation for our sense of place, our identity. We are all connected by our relationships with geology.

Learning about Lake Superior and geology on the Inland Seas schooner tour.

Hometown, family?

I grew up on the east coast of Canada, just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia—I’ve moved from one beautiful peninsula to another! My parents still live there, and I have a brother, niece and nephew that live in New York City. I now live in Copper Harbor with my partner Steve; a small town of 100 folks in the winter is very much another beautiful family I am grateful to be a part of.

Water Walkers walking to Copper Harbor from Sand Point lighthouse

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love gardening, trail running, and am working toward my 200-hour yoga certification to deepen the practice for myself. I am honored to participate in local Water Walks held annually in our community. This Anishinaabe water ceremony is generously shared with our community by KBIC Water Protectors to raise awareness about the importance of water and the need for protection and healing of our water relationships.

Geostory Videos

Read More

Sniffing Volcanoes from Space

EARTH Magazine book review: “How the Rock Connects Us” shares copper country geoheritage

Forged in Stone and Fire

John Vucetich: Restoring the Balance—Wolves and Our Relationship with Nature

Wolves on a wilderness island illuminate lessons on the environment, extinction, and life. Photo credit: John Vucetich

John Vucetich shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, November 7 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Michigan Tech Distinguished Professor John Vucetich leads the the longest running predator-prey study in the world.

Restoring the Balance: What are you doing for supper this Monday 11/7 at 6 pm ET? Grab a bite on Zoom with Dean Janet Callahan and John Vucetich, Distinguished Professor, College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech.

Prof. Vucetich studies the wolves—and the moose that sustain them—of the boreal forest of Isle Royale National Park. It’s something he’s done for more than a quarter century. He joined Michigan Tech’s Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study in the early 1990s as an undergraduate student majoring in biological science. He went on to earn a PhD in Forest Sciences at Tech in 1999.

Three years later Vucetich began leading the study along with SFRES research professor Rolf Peterson, who is now retired. This year will be the study’s 66th year monitoring wolves and moose on Isle Royale—the longest running predator-prey study in the world. (Their project website is isleroyalewolf.org.)

“Much of my work is aimed at developing insights that emerge from the synthesis of science and ethics,” says Vucetich. “Environmental ethicists and environmental scientists have a common goal, which is to better understand how we ought to relate to nature,” he adds. “Nevertheless, these two groups employ wildly different methods and premises.”

During Husky Bites, Vucetich will read from his book, Restoring the Balance: What Wolves Teach Us About Our Relationship with Nature, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2021. 

Restoring the Balance : What Wolves Tell Us About Our Relationship with Nature, by John Vucetich (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021).

“It’s a book about wolves,” he says, simply, “and how humans relate to wolves.”

It’s also an exhilarating, multifaceted, thought-provoking read. Vucetich combines environmental philosophy with field notes chronicling his day-to-day experience as a scientist. Examining the fate of wolves in the wild, he not only shares lessons learned from these wolves, but also explains their impact on humanity’s fundamental responsibilities to the natural world.

“Science can never tell us what we ought to do or how we ought to behave,” says Vucetich. “Science only describes the way the world is. Ethics by itself can’t tell us what to do, either. Ethics needs science—facts about the world—to be properly informed.”

“John is a real field man, a dauntingly quantitative biologist, and a dedicated student of logic:  the coalescence of this whole emerges as a leading conservation ethicist,” writes David W. Macdonald, professor of wildlife conservation at Oxford University, in the foreword of Restoring the Balance. “In this book, John Vucetich asks you to imagine yourself as a young wolf, dreaming of attempting to kill your first moose, ten times your size, using only your teeth,” adds Macdonald. “He asks the big question (bravely, for a hard-nosed quantitative biologist in a profession neurotic about anthropomorphism) what is it like to be a wolf? He thinks, as do I, that this is a more sensible question than you might suspect, in part because it turns out there’s so much similarity between us and them.”

“The island is Isle Royale, a wilderness surrounded by the largest freshwater lake in the world. I make these observations from the Flagship, an airplane just large enough for a pilot and one observer. After the flight, questions hack their way through the recursive web of dendrites that is my consciousness. What is the life of a wolf like? What is it like to be a wolf? Those questions are too presumptuous. The first questions should penetrate down to the foundation: Of all the millions of species on planet Earth, why wolves, why not some other?” 

John Vucetich, Restoring the Balance

Joining in: Becky Cassel grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She teaches Earth Sciences in Pennsylvania.

Joining in during Husky Bites will be Becky Cassel. She teaches Earth science and environmental science to ninth graders at a high school outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania  (Lower Dauphin School District).

“I have not met Dr. Vucetich in person. As a teacher, I have spent many years using the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study to talk about populations and predator/prey relationships in my classroom,” says Cassel.  

“For Christmas last year I gave my father a copy of Restoring the Balance. When he was done reading it, both my husband and I read it. It was riveting. I emailed Dean Callahan to suggest inviting Dr. Vucetich onto Husky Bites. The Michigan Tech Wolf-Moose study is found in every biology textbook used today. I knew many Husky Bites watchers would be familiar and interested in the topic.”

The view from Flagship, over Lake Superior.

Excerpt

Prof. John Vucetich at work on Isle Royale. “What does a healthy relationship with the natural world look like? Are humans the only persons to inhabit Earth—or do we share the planet with uncounted ‘nonhuman persons’?’

During Husky Bites, Prof. Vucetich will read passages from Restoring the Balance. The passage below is taken from the book’s first chapter, “Why Wolves?”

February 18. We saw what they smelled—a cow moose and her calf, who had themselves been foraging. It didn’t look good for the cow and calf right from the beginning. The calf was too far away from her mother, and they may have had different ideas about how to handle the situation. The wolves rushed in. The cow turned to face the wolves, expertly positioned between the wolves and her calf, but only for a second. The calf bolted. After a flash of confusion’s hesitation, the cow pivoted and did the same. Had she not, the wolves would have rushed past the cow and bloodied the snow with her calf. The break in coordination between cow and calf put four or five wind-thrown trees lying in a crisscrossed mess between the cow and her tender love. The cow hurled herself over the partially fallen trunks that were nearly chest-high on a moose. She caught up with her frantic calf before the wolves did. Then the chase was on, led by the least experienced of them all—the calf. The cow, capable of running faster, stayed immediately behind the calf, no matter what direction the terror-ridden mind of that calf decided to take. Every third or fourth step the cow snapped one of its rear hooves back toward the teeth of death. One solid knock to the head would rattle loose the life from, even, a hound of hell. After a couple of minutes and perhaps a third of a mile, the pace slowed. By the third minute everyone was walking. The calf, the cow, and the wolves. The stakes were high for all, but not greater than the exhaustion they shared. Eventually they all stopped. Not a hair’s width separated the cow and calf, and the wolves were just 20 feet away. The cow faced the wolves. A few minutes later the wolves walked away. By nightfall Chippewa Harbor Pack had pushed on another six miles or so, passing who-knows-how-many-more moose. Their stomachs remained empty.

Praise for Restoring the Balance:

“John Vucetich creates a masterful blend of memoir, science, and ethics with a message that is both timely and timeless.” — Michael Paul Nelson, Professor of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, Oregon State University

“This exhilarating book is a remarkable triumph―beautifully crafted.” — David W. Macdonald, Professor of Wildlife Conservation, University of Oxford

“This book is juicy with field notes―the stories of charismatic individual wolves like the Old Gray Guy, and complex science made understandable and seductively enticing to the reader with even the tiniest interest in wolf survival and natural history.” — Nancy Jo Tubbs, Chair, Board of Directors, International Wolf Center

Becky visited Isle Royale.

Becky, how did you first get into teaching? What sparked your interest?

I taught sailing lessons as a summer job in Escanaba, Michigan, while pursuing a degree at Miami of Ohio. After graduating and working for a year I realized that I really enjoyed teaching much more than my chosen career. I decided to go back and earn my Earth science teaching certification.

As a self-professed “outdoor girl”, I love all things Earth science. I was amazed how much I enjoyed every single Earth science class I needed to take in order to earn my science teacher certificate. I had been working in Pennsylvania at the time, so I earned my teacher certificate in Pennsylvania, and then was hired to teach there, too. I met my husband, Craig, and we decided to stay in Pennsylvania. Of course we travel to Escanaba every summer to get my UP fix!

Hometown, family?

My hometown is Escanaba, Michigan; however my parents are from the Philadelphia area. My father chose Michigan Tech for college (Tech Alum ’59) and fell in love with the area. The Cliff Notes version is that he returned to the East, married my mother, and convinced her to move to the UP.  I was 2 months old at the time. I have an older sister (also a teacher) who lives in central Maine.

Craig and Becky Cassel enjoy bicycle touring in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the UP).

My husband Craig is a biology and anatomy teacher, and we met while teaching in the same school. We’ve driven into school together every day since then. He just retired at the end of last year, so now I drive in on my own.

We have two children. Our son, Elliot, just graduated from Virginia Tech last year and returned to college this year to earn his Earth science teacher certificate. Our daughter, Avery, chose to go to Michigan Tech like her grandfather, and entered the environmental engineering program. She has found her “outdoor people” at Michigan Tech.

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I guess my biggest hobby is bicycle touring, but we also hike, run, and spend time outdoors. I grew up sailing in Esky, but sailing in Pennsylvania is NOT like sailing on the Great Lakes so I don’t do much of that except when I return to Escanaba.

My husband’s family owns a farm outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and we live on one end of the farm. This has allowed us to raise our children as outdoor lovers. We also have a beagle (Henry) and several chickens and rabbits. The farm itself is a thoroughbred racehorse farm, operated by my in-laws. We aren’t involved in horse training; instead, we grow grapes. We planted and opened a vineyard and winery in 2008, so that’s our other “hobby”.

Read more:

Preparing To Live With Wolves, By John Vucetich, January 16, 2012, The New York Times

Ecologist Ponders Fairness To Wildlife And The Thoughts Of Moose, By Rachel Duckett, December 21, 2021, Great Lakes Echo

What Wolves Tell Us about Our Relationship with Nature, by Marc Bekoff Ph.D., October 21, 2021, Psychology Today

Isle Royale Winter Study: Good Year for Wolves, Tough One for Moose, by Cyndi Perkins, August 24, 2022 Michigan Tech News

Walt Milligan: Kitchen Metallurgy

Trick, or treat? At first glance these almost look edible! (Sand molds, filled with molten metal castings, sit on a cooling rack in the Michigan Tech foundry.)

Walter Milligan shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 10/31 at 6 pm. Learn something new in just 30 minutes or so, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Dr. Walt Milligan

What are you doing for supper this Monday (Halloween) night 10/31 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Walt Milligan, chair of the Department of Materials Science Engineering at Michigan Tech. 

It’s Halloween, and during Husky Bites, we’re going to learn a few things about knives! If you ever wondered what “tempered” means in a steel product, or have seen videos of people quenching red-hot steel into water or oil and wondered why, Prof. Milligan will explain. 

Just how do they make the high performance carbon and stainless steels that are used for kitchen knives? There’s a bit of nanotechnology involved. During Husky Bites we’ll learn about the different kinds of stainless steel.

“How do you store your knives?” asks Professor Milligan. “You don’t want them banging around in the drawer,” he says.

But why not?

Lightsaber? Nah. This is annealed copper at 900°C.

Have you ever wondered why some stainless steel items in your kitchen stick to a magnet, and why some don’t?

Or what kind of steel is used to make an extraordinarily sharp knife, or an ultra-strong knife? During Husky Bites, Prof. Milligan will teach us about all this, and a lot more. 

In the photo to the right, Prof. Milligan teaches his Intro to MSE class at Michigan Tech how annealing, a heat treatment process, alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of metal to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable.

After he grabs a copper bar out of the furnace that was annealed at 900°C for roughly an hour, Prof. Milligan holds the copper bar, about to demonstrate to the class how its ductility increased (and strength decreased) by having a student easily bend the previously unbendable rod with just their hands.

Milligan began his academic career at Michigan Tech in 1989, and for 17 years he taught MSE and conducted interdisciplinary research on high-performance structural materials. In 2006, he took on a new challenge, and was appointed as Michigan Tech’s first Chief Information Officer, and was tasked with building a robust, campus-wide information technology organization. He held that position until 2015 when he returned to the faculty, and then, a few years later, served as the interim department chair in the (then) brand new Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech. He became chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in July 2021.

“Cold working is the process of strengthening a metal through plastic deformation. Annealing is the process of heat treating a metal to increase its ductility and decrease its strength.”

Walt Milligan
Yes, the MSE classrooms are equipped with metallurgy furnaces!

Prof. Milligan earned a BS in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, as well as MS and PhD Degrees in Materials Engineering from Georgia Tech. He has worked for GE Aircraft Engines, Carpenter Technology Corporation, NASA—Glenn Research Center, the Nuclear Research Center in Grenoble, France, and the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. He is a Fellow of ASM International and a Distinguished Life Member of Alpha Sigma Mu, and has served on the Boards of Directors of TMS and ABET.

Prof. Milligan, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

My father was a skilled machinist in the forging industry, so I was aware of manufacturing.  I was good at math and science, and those subjects interested me, so I decided to study engineering at the University of Cincinnati.  

Are those some cat ears behind that foundry crucible!?!

Hometown, family?

I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest of 6 children.  I have been married to my wife Sheila, who is a Teaching Associate Professor of Accounting at Michigan Tech, since 1984.  We met at school in Cincinnati.  We got married and moved to Atlanta, where I received my PhD from Georgia Tech.

The Milligans relax after a holiday ice hockey rental with friends and family. Left to Right: Walt’s son, Patrick Milligan, wife Sheila Milligan, associate teaching professor of accounting at Michigan Tech. Walt. Walt’s other son, Brian Milligan.

We have two adult sons. Patrick, age 31, received a BS in Materials Science and Engineering and an MS in Energy Systems Engineering, both from the University of Michigan. He works as a consultant in the electric power generation industry. Patrick is expecting his first child in March, so I’ll be a grandfather soon, which is hard to believe. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Brian, age 27, received BS and PhD Degrees from the Colorado School of Mines in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. All on his own, Brian became obsessed with high-quality knives in middle school and high school. So he welded together a home-made coal stove from junkyard parts, bought a used anvil on Craigslist, and started forging knives. He also has quite a collection of $200-$300 pocket knives from the likes of Benchmade and Spyderco.  

Walt with an MSE student, in his early days at Michigan Tech. He’s been a member of the Michigan Tech faculty for over 33 years!

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

Shortly after I moved to Houghton in 1989, I started playing ice hockey. Now, 32 years later, I am still playing (as a goalie, no less!) 2 to 3 times per week, 6 months per year.  I also was very involved in coaching kids’ hockey and am still involved in maintaining websites and leagues for kids hockey across the UP.